The Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum is known for housing remnants of the U.S. Life Saving Service and paraphernalia from Ocean City’s history, from boardwalk trinkets and toys to the remains of 19th century shipwrecks.
But in the new rotating exhibit on the first floor, there are a few items on display through October that Ocean City beer lovers will find particularly interesting: OC’s first legal post-Prohibition beer tap and, behind that, a bottle of what’s likely the first “Ocean City” branded beer.
The beer, formally known as Olde Towne Ocean City Beer, was created by John R. Townsend, grandson of the town’s first resident physician F.J. Townsend.
“They released it in February of ’89, and the locals were okay with it,” said Robin Beauchamp, a museum aid who put the exhibit together. “They said it didn’t taste horrible, but it wasn’t the best they ever had. Obviously it didn’t do too well,” she said, because the beer didn’t stick around too long.
But hopes were high when the brew was first released. On the museum wall next to the display is an article from the Washington Post dated May 18, 1989 titled “A following is brewing for Ocean City beer,” where writer Teresa Humphrey described the beer’s taste and popularity.
Townsend said the beer has a “European taste. It’s a real full-bodied beer…similar to Amstel Light, not quite as bitter as Heineken. It has a lot of flavor. It’s an all-grain brew, no sugar added. It’s a lager,” he said.
At the 94th St. Beer, Wine & Deli, manager Zachary F. Rodriguez has been carrying the beer for about two months.
“We sell out every week. At first it was the tourists taking it back home, but now it’s local people buying it, and it’s in the bars,” Rodriguez said. “It’s selling real well and we get a lot of repeat business, so it must be good,” he said.
Beauchamp noted that this was before the rise of craft beer’s popularity, back when unique labels often sold more beer than the brew’s actual flavor. And nothing screams “Ocean City” more than a postcard of the beach and boardwalk, which the Olde Towne label depicts.
“It says somewhere that [Townsend’s] mother or grandmother is in the picture on the postcard,” Beauchamp said.
The label was designed by Townsend’s wife Dawn, a graphic artist who used the 1915 postcard to communicate “an antique look with art deco and modern colors,” as her husband described it to the Post.
Olde Towne Ocean City Beer was brewed by Jones Brewing of Smithton, PA. and was sold in liquor stores and small restaurants throughout Ocean City.
The beer tap on display was used in the early 1930s at Jackson’s Casino, a popular nightclub in the 30s and 40s on 9th street and the Boardwalk.
These items will be on display at the Life Saving Museum only through October. Next month the exhibit will depict the 1950s shipwreck of the African Queen, but in February the focus will be back on the Prohibition Era and the display will house a 1920s bourbon jug.